Grassley seeks full audit and accountability for use of funds by law enforcement officials Print
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 18 February 2011 12:01
WASHINGTON – February 17, 2011 - Senator Chuck Grassley has asked the Commerce Secretary to ensure a full accounting and appropriate discipline for abusive spending of asset forfeiture funds collected by federal law enforcement officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Grassley’s request is based on questionable purchases including a $300,000 luxury boat purportedly for undercover operations.  The law enforcement office was unable to provide documentation that the boat had ever been used for an undercover operation when the Inspector General began inquiring, but indications are that it was used by executive staff for fishing trips.  Other expenditures include the unauthorized purchase of 200 vehicles for a 172-person law enforcement office, and $580,000 in international travel, with only 17 percent of the travel directly related to law enforcement investigations.

“Nothing’s being done to fully account for what happened, and no one’s been held responsible for wrongdoing,” Grassley said.  “Turning a blind eye is license for more of the same and continued disregard for the public trust held by these public officials.  In this case, it’s at the direct expense of average Americans.”

A report issued by the Inspector General for the Commerce Department found that as much as $96 million may have gone through this fund in the last five years.  The amount of money could not be verified because the books were in such disarray.  The fund also was unusual in that it wasn’t created through the sale of assets seized as a result of their use in criminal enterprises.  Rather, it consisted of money collected through administrative fines and penalties imposed with little oversight or judicial review.

In a letter to Commerce Secretary Gary F. Locke, Grassley said the nature of the fund “has led to allegations of questionable conduct on the part of enforcement officers who had an incentive to impose exorbitant penalties and fines on fisherman.”

Grassley said that while an outside auditing firm has been brought in to determine the balance of the fund and audit the most recent fiscal year, that fails to account for what went on since 2005.  “The public deserves to know, and the abuse needs to be stopped,” Grassley said.  “If heads don’t roll, nothing’s likely to change.”

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